Can Being Stupid Make You Smart?

Published on April 22, 2020

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I’m an idiot — and you should be, too. Sometimes.

Thinking is hard, and thinking with a free, open mind might be the hardest thing of all. The Einstellung Effect can create cognitive illusions that blind us to different points of view. It prevents us from seeing simpler solutions or alternative ways to solve a problem. And the more we know about a given topic, the stronger the Einstellung Effect can be.

Psychology, math, and every other field is subject to Einstellung, and it’s why heroes often appear from completely different disciplines. Because a fresh set of eyes isn’t bound by a given set of knowledge, they see something in a brand new light. What’s impossible to trained professionals can be obvious to someone who’s inexperienced.

The Einstellung Effect might be the ultimate psychological paradox: the more we know, the stupider we can be. And the stupider we are, the more we can know.

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*** SOURCES ***

“Mechanization in Problem Solving: The Effect of Einstellung” (1942). Alexander Luchins, Psychological Monographs, 54(6), i–95:

“Novum Organum” (1620). Francis Bacon:

“Making Use of Data” (2013). Jeremy Zasowski, 3M Inside Angle:

“Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart” (1999). Gigerenzer, Todd, and ABC Research Group:

“Discovering Psychological Mechanisms for Solving a Tenacious Brainteaser” (2003). Wang and Krauss:

“The Knowledge Paradox: Why Knowing More is Knowing Less” (2017). Burlando:,then%20I%20do%20not%20know%2D.

The Water Jar Problem (table):

Grand Illusions Einstein Hollow Face Illusion

The Hollow Mask Illusion

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Research And Writing by Matthew Tabor

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